The Diary: Julian Assange; David Fincher; Coen Brothers; Polly Stenham; David Shrigley


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The Independent Culture

Julian of the opera

It has melodrama and scandal, secrets and lies, and, at its heart, a memorably flawed hero. Now the Wikileaks saga is to become an opera. Last month, Opera Australia held secret workshops in Melbourne for a new piece based on the life of Julian Assange (above left). The creation of OA's artistic director Lyndon Terracini – one-time neighbour of Assange in Lismore, New South Wales – the opera has a score by the young composer Jonathan Dreyfus and comes with the blessing of the Wikileaks founder.

At this stage, details are swathed in secrecy, but Terracini reveals: "I can tell you that I came up with the idea and engaged some pretty 'out there' guys to develop something to workshop. That's all we have at this point in time. We're looking at how we actually do it."

One of the "out there" guys was Eddie Perfect, a singer and comedian who previously gave voice to Shane Warne in a musical version of the cricketer's life. So, who is more enjoyable to sing – Assange or Warney? "Assange is a greater challenge because his personality is filtered through the media and we rarely see the "human" side. He's also more subdued. Withdrawn, geekish, driven, perhaps a little arrogant," Perfect tells me. "I really like him though. Warney is all exterior and rarely self-reflective. Assange is all interior."

The many take club

Is David Fincher the new Stanley Kubrick? According to Robin Wright, who stars in his upcoming The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, the director thinks nothing of shooting the same scene up to 90 times to get his take. "He shoots for nine months and it shows. On the set you literally do 87 takes, picking up a glass, and each one is different. He'll just keep the camera rolling and... you can go for 40 minutes," said the actress at Doha Tribeca Film Festival. "He doesn't call 'cut'. He'll give you a different adjective every time you pick up the glass... You just have to stop thinking and react. He is a machine." Kubrick is reputed to have required 127 takes for a scene involving Shelley Duvall in The Shining so, really, Wright got off lightly.

No credit for the other Coen

They alternate top billing on their films, but the latest project from the Coen Brothers will have only one name below the title. Later this month, three one-act plays by Ethan Coen premiere in New York in an Atlantic Theatre Company production, starring Amanda (daughter of Randy) Quaid. Happy Hour, a trio of dark comedies about a bitter barfly, a lonely young couple and a suicidal businessman, comes with the Coen-esque tag line, "Your life could be worse". Another of Coen's dramas, Talking Cure, is currently running on Broadway as part of Relatively Speaking, alongside one-act plays by Woody Allen and Elaine May. The brothers have just finished filming a remake of the 1966 art heist Gambit, starring Cameron Diaz and Colin Firth in New Mexico and London. Perhaps they just need a little time apart.

Urban gothic

There was a chance to see new work by Polly Stenham at the nabokov art club's Festival of the Dead last weekend. At midnight, Hallowe'en revellers at Battersea Arts Centre gathered in the entrance hall to watch a high priestess begin the "ritual". Though hard to judge the merits of Stenham's script (it had been translated into gothic-sounding Romanian), the piece reached a suitably dramatic sacrificial climax, involving aerial gymnastics and a UV rave. Stenham was introduced to nabokov's artistic director Joe Murphy by the playwright Simon Stephens. "Polly was attracted to the idea of a collaborative piece rather than sitting in a room writing on her own," says Murphy. "We're hoping to take the piece to a festival and are working on more projects."

Surreal cooking show

David Shrigley, best known for his cartoon vignettes of modern life, has written an opera. Pass the Spoon premieres at Glasgow's Tramway this month and is a surreal take on a TV cookery show, featuring a singing banana, a glum egg and a giant dung beetle. The artist hopes to tour it to QEH in London to coincide with his exhibition at the Hayward next year, which will include several new large works and films and an animation about a drummer. He last showed there as part of Laughing in a Foreign Language in 2008. "The problem with that show was that as soon as you say something is about humour, it instantly becomes not funny," he says.